U.S. Engagement in the Pacific
The United States is a Pacific nation with deep and long-standing ties to the other countries of the region. The United States – through more than 17 of its departments and agencies – committed more than $350 million in FY 2016 to our engagement with the Pacific Islands via projects, assistance, and operations that directly benefit the 9 million people of the region. The United States partners with the Pacific Islands to tackle global and regional challenges, including promoting sustainable growth and prosperity, ensuring regional stability, addressing environmental challenges, and strengthening our people-to-people ties.
Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton’s participation in the Pacific Islands Forum’s (PIF) Forum Dialogue Partners (FDP) meeting, leading an interagency U.S. delegation, reflects sustained United States commitment to the region and our Pacific Islands partners.
Tourism is the primary economic driver and job creator in the Pacific Islands. To better support this vital sector, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the East-West Center, will conduct a four-part, two-way Economic Empowerment program for emerging tourism leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The program’s goal is to invigorate Pacific island economies by increasing the capacities of mid-level tourism professionals in the private and public sectors and civil society organizations. The first group of participants will arrive in the United States in the Spring of 2018. The participants will spend approximately six weeks (38 days) in the U.S. for individually-tailored fellowship placements with organizations in Hawaii; related programming; and participation in the Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, D.C. Two subsequent groups of U.S. participants will travel overseas to the Pacific Islands to spend approximately two weeks with their foreign counterparts in their workplaces and communities.
Security/Law Enforcement Cooperation
The Pacific Islands face a multitude of transnational crime threats, including crimes associated with illegal fishing, financial crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, gang activity, and cybercrime. The United States partners with regional bodies and governments in the Pacific Islands region to enhance law enforcement cooperation through a number of mechanisms, including by improving information sharing, providing investigative support, and building capacity through training and mentoring.
Supporting Information Sharing: Based at the U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, the Joint Interagency Task Force West (JIATF-West) brings together military and law enforcement capabilities across the U.S. federal government and partners closely with the Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN), the regional network of Pacific Islands law enforcement organizations. Over the past several years, JIATF-West has funded and supported the transition of PTCN to a new information sharing platform, the All Partners Access Network (APAN). JIATF-West is providing ground support for the next PTCN event to be held in Honolulu in early November, funded by the Australian Federal Police.
Combatting Financial Crime: The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) provided a $75,000 grant for Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism Financing training in the Pacific islands. This funding supported three capacity building workshops on money laundering and criminal asset confiscation investigation in Tonga in October 2016, in Cook Islands in March 2017, and Fiji in June 2017. The Asia Pacific Group is planning a similar workshop with a Pacific member in early 2018 and mentoring visits to follow-up on the workshops delivered.
First Asia Pacific Drug Focal Points Meeting: From September 26-27, 2016, Ministry of Health and Justice representatives from Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Samoa, and Tonga attended a drug focal points meeting funded by INL and hosted by the Colombo Plan’s Drug Advisory Plan in Fiji. Recommendations from the meeting included the need for additional development of treatment professionals in the workforce, creation of a regional Pacific network of demand reduction professionals, and to hold more meetings on drug demand and supply reduction issues on a regular basis. As an outcome, INL will be funding drug treatment training in Samoa in October 2017 and is working with the Fiji University to offer INL-supported curricula for training professionals on evidence based drug prevention and treatment practices.
Drug Prevention Workshop: In 2018, INL will support a workshop for Pacific states and U.S. territories to address growing drug use in the region, affecting public health and criminal justice systems
Combatting Cybercrime: To reduce Pacific Islands’ vulnerability to cybercrime, the United States supports training and capacity building in the region to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes. Building on a joint U.S.-Australia 2015 cybercrime legislation workshop, in May 2017 the Department of Justice provided expert trainers for the Pacific Islands Law Officers Network (PILON) Cybercrime workshop in Tonga co-hosted by Australia, Tonga, and the Council of Europe. This workshop for policymakers, police, and prosecutors covered technical aspects of investigation and prosecution of cybercrime.
Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans
The United States partners with the Pacific Islands to ensure fisheries and other ocean resources are conserved and sustainably used for this and future generations, promoting food security and economic livelihoods in the Pacific. The United States is proud to be a contributing member to the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and to support their regional work to protect the ocean and manage oceanic and coastal fisheries resources.
Combatting Ocean Acidification: Ocean acidification (OA) poses a threat to ocean ecosystems, which are a source of tourism, fisheries revenues, and food security for the Pacific Islands. To increase our understanding of OA, at the 2016 Our Ocean conference, the United States announced the Enhancing Capacity for Ocean Acidification Monitoring and Mitigation (OAMM) program. OAMM is a public-private partnership of government, civil society, and private stakeholders focused on building capacity of scientists in the Pacific Islands and Latin America to monitor OA and to assess the impact of seagrass restoration on local ocean chemistry. Through this project, the United States aims to increase worldwide coverage of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON). A workshop for Pacific Islands scientists will take place in the region in late 2017. Follow on support will be provided to select scientists to continue OA monitoring in their countries’ coastal waters and contribute data to GOA-ON.
Managing Coastal Fisheries: The United States also supports efforts in the Pacific Islands to establish and manage marine protected areas. In Fiji, the Department of State is partnering with CORAL in Lau, Ra, and Cakaudrove Provinces to build local communities’ capacity to sustainably manage coastal fisheries, enforce Fiji’s Fisheries Act and other regulations on local marine managed areas, and to finance these efforts. In PNG, the Department of State is supporting Wildlife Conservation Society’s efforts to work with the New Ireland Provincial Government and local communities on zoning plans for a marine managed area and training for local community managers to administer fisheries management plans.
Addressing Marine Pollution and Debris: The United States is working to combat marine pollution in the region and globally. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a second regional workshop to help Pacific Island countries develop and refine their oil spill prevention, response, and recovery capabilities. At the global level we are working at the United Nations, G7, G20, and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation to combat marine debris, estimated to cost Asia-Pacific economies a loss of $622 million in the tourism sector and $279 million in damage to the shipping industry annually. Recognizing that insufficient waste management infrastructure is largely responsible for the flood of plastic waste into the Pacific region, the U.S. partnered with Japan and Indonesia through the APEC forum to convene a series of high level meetings to encourage private financing for solid waste management systems. The APEC meetings underscore the need for cooperation across governments, international financial institutions, NGOs and industry to develop long-term solutions to global concerns. The Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs is also funding three marine debris projects in the Asia Pacific Region for nearly $750,000.
Combatting Illegal Fishing: The United States is committed to working with the Pacific Islands to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This includes support for maritime security via the Shiprider program with the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, currently operational with ten Pacific Island partners. We cooperate closely with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and other partners in the region to increase maritime domain awareness and conduct joint surveillance operations.
Increased Economic Returns from Fisheries: The United States and 16 Pacific Island parties agreed to adopt amendments to the 1987 Treaty on Fisheries in December 2016, and have been working together on implementation since then. The Treaty supports millions of dollars in commercial fishing activity and payments to the Pacific Island countries, $21 million in related economic assistance, and broad cooperation between the parties and stakeholders in support of sustainable fisheries and shared interests.
Protecting the Environment
The United States is working to eradicate the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and other invasive species in the North Pacific with potential to harm native species and damage economies throughout the region. The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency committed over $745,000 in the past two years to research to identify biocontrol agents and develop attractants and other eradication and mitigation tools for the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle - Guam biotype (CRB-G). These efforts to control the spread of CRB-G contribute to implementing the Regional Biosecurity Plan for Micronesia and Hawai’i.
Papua New Guinea has 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity in less than 1 percent of the world’s total land mass. To support the preservation of PNG’s unique biodiversity, USAID is supporting over $1 million in new grants to civil society organizations to implement programs including:
- Protecting the abundant biodiversity of Kimbe Bay by raising awareness about the marine environment, impacts of climate change, and loss of biodiversity through youth engagement and education.
- Promoting biodiversity conservation and resilience in Madang and Chimbu provinces through community engagement that identifies ecosystem services and impacts from climate change and development.
- Scaling up women’s participation in mangrove management.
- Developing a fire management plan to protect to reduce the vulnerability of the biodiversity conservation area of the Gimalapira Conservation and Sustainable Resource Management Project and local communities.
The Pacific Islands face a range of public health challenges including high rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases as well as frequent communicable disease outbreaks. To address these challenges, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides ongoing support to public health departments and ministries in the Pacific Islands through technical and financial assistance. Last year, CDC awarded $17.5 million to the three Freely Associated States (FAS) and Papua New Guinea through 10 different grant/cooperative agreement programs for communicable and chronic disease prevention, public health preparedness and response, epidemiology and laboratory capacity, and childhood immunization. CDC is providing technical assistance to the Fiji Ministry of Health to improve monitoring of supply and usage of childhood vaccines. This will help to better estimate vaccine supply needs in Fiji, and potentially other countries with similar population characteristics. CDC also provided assistance during recent outbreaks of TB, mumps, hepatitis A and arboviral diseases in the FAS. This includes the deployment of 25 CDC staff to the region during the 2016/2017 Zika response as well as $2.5 million to the Pacific Island Health Officers Association to provide more than 30 additional contract staff to supplement CDC’s Zika response efforts. In PNG, CDC recently revised and published new national HIV care and treatment guidelines and is working to finalize a new Sexually Transmitted Illnesses (STIs) and HIV strategy 2018-2022 that would facilitate more integrated approaches between treatment and prevention of HIV and other communicable diseases like TB, Hepatitis and STIs.
The Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs is funding a number of local initiatives combatting the spread of mosquito borne illnesses. This includes support for teacher-training on the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) science mosquito protocol for teachers in Fiji, and a program to educate youth on mosquito borne illnesses, monitoring and vector surveillance in Koror, Palau. In addition, the Department of State will host a 2-day “TechCamp” in November in Auckland, New Zealand to train health communicators from across the Pacific on prevention of mosquito-borne diseases. The TechCamp will bring together health communicators, health and business professionals, government officials, and community leaders from the Pacific including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau to increase their organizational capacity and develop tech solutions to help them expand public health communications about mosquito-borne diseases in the region.
The Embassy Science Fellows (ESF) Program brings U.S. federal government scientists to Embassies abroad for short term collaborations with host governments to advance environment, science, technology and health issues. The ESF Program is active globally, including in the Pacific Islands region. More than a dozen fellows from 18 U.S. federal science agencies have served in the Pacific Islands; in Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Papua New Guinea. Most recently, Embassy Koror, Palau hosted a series of four Fellows over the course 2016 and 2017, who worked on basic disease prevention and healthy lifestyle promotion. Palau, like many Pacific Island countries, suffers from high rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases, and the Embassy has made prevention of NCDs through the promotion of healthy lifestyles one of its top priorities. To further the availability of healthy, locally produced food for Palauans, this year Embassy Koror will host three additional scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency to engage in three new priority areas; sediment control, soil health, and hydrology.
In partnership with PNG’s National Department of Health, USAID addresses PNG’s HIV/AID epidemic by supporting a continuum-of-care model that links prevention, care, support and treatment services for people vulnerable to, living with, or affected by HIV/AIDS. USAID builds upon this successful model by delivering HIV/AIDS services to 12,500 key affected populations, as well as by linking those affected by gender-based violence – a key contributing factor to HIV infection in women – to support services.
The United States also works to build relationships with the peoples of the Pacific through cultural ties, capacity building, and supporting future leaders. The United States is committed to working with the next generation of Pacific leaders and will support the fifth Young Pacific Leaders conference. This program gathers emerging leaders from Pacific Islands nations to discuss issues of regional concern. This year’s program will for the first time feature a small grants competition so that participants can transform ideas to action and compete for funding to implement projects in their home countries.
The Department of State hosted a three-day interactive, participant-driven workshop with the theme “Increasing Digital Literacy and Communications Capacity for Journalists and Civil Society Leaders in the Pacific.” The workshop provided hands-on training to thirty five regional journalists and civil society leaders from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu on mobile journalism and new technologies in researching, verifying, and reporting information.
The Department of State, through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, will provide a nearly $60,000 USD grant to the Pacific Traditions Society to preserve traditional voyaging practices in the Duff Islands, Solomon Islands. The project will involve a year-long program to train young people in traditional voyaging techniques and building vaka with traditional materials.
The Department of State’s Sports Diplomacy division, working closely with our Embassy in Papua New Guinea, will support a group of female soccer players’ travel to the United States to participate in a Sports Visitor program. The participants will be from underserved areas of the country that are at-risk of gender-based violence. This Sports Visitors Program reinforces the importance of sports to learning key values around leadership, teamwork, and conflict resolution while demonstrating the U.S. Department of State’s commitment to reaching minority and underserved populations, as well as empowering women and girls.
To connect with audiences in Samoa, the Sports Diplomacy Division is supporting our Embassy Apia this October with a basketball program with Women’s National Basketball Association Legend Ruthie Bolton. In addition to leading basketball clinics with local youth and coaches, Ruthie Bolton will hold sessions on women’s empowerment and share her story as a victim of domestic violence. Together with UN Women and the National University, Embassy Apia will screen “Mighty Ruthie,” an ESPN-SEC Storied documentary of how Ruthie Bolton survived and overcame an abusive relationship to excel on the court.